The Federal Communications Commission is readying new rules that would reclassify the Internet as a utility, forbidding Internet service providers from creating Internet fast lanes. It's a move which could put the agency in charge when it comes to service fees.
The news follows a long and heated debate regarding net neutrality, and would also apply to wireless broadband providers.
FCC Charimen Tom Wheeler released the proposition for these new rules on Thursday, with Tom Wheeler strongly suggesting that the FCC should reclassify the Internet as a public utility. The proposal outlines how the FCC needs to have much greater control over the Internet and pricing of the Internet, and bans Internet Service Providers from being able to charge extra for particular websites. This is a step in the right direction, with the next step being a vote to put the proposal into action.
President Barack Obama also recently urged the commission to reclassify the Internet as a public utility. Such a move would appease net neutrality advocates, who want the Internet to remain neutral and equal.
Reclassifying it would put it under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which allows the commission to regulate Internet access and ensure equal access for everyone. Title II was first introduced to protect consumers from an AT&T monopoly in 1934, and banned unjust discrimination by phone service providers.
One of the most interesting parts of Title II is that the FCC could also dictate what ISPs can charge for Internet access.
The utility designation would prohibit telecoms from developing Internet "fast lanes," different transmission speed levels which would allow ISPs to limit Internet speed to some customers and provide greater speed to others.
Those against the utility designation claim such regulation would stifle investment and innovation. Several ISPs have indicated they will legally challenge such a designation.
The reclassification, however, will be a victory for consumers and proponents of equal Internet access, and would ensure that the future of the Internet is much more open and equal.
The full proposal from the FCC is expected to be released Thursday. The agency's vote on the new rules and utility designation is scheduled for Feb. 26.